Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s phone is on a list of people identified by Moroccan intelligence as potential Pegasus spyware, French radio reported on Tuesday.
Radio France made the claim two days later and several other news outlets, including The Washington Post and The Guardian, reported that the Israeli software had been used by governments to spy on activists, journalists, lawyers and politicians around the world.
The bomb claims were based on a leaked document containing 50,000 people identified as potential targets for Pegasus between 2016 and June 2021.
The list was dominated by numbers from 10 countries: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Morocco denied the allegations on Monday, saying it had “never purchased computer software to infiltrate communications equipment”.
On Tuesday, Radio France claimed the country’s monarch was on the list, as were “a large number” of Moroccan royals.
Among them were the king’s wife, Lalla Salma Bennani, his cousin Prince Moulay Hicham Alaoui, nicknamed the “Red Prince” for his progressive views, a former son-in-law of the late King Hassan II, entrepreneur Fouad Filali and Hassan II’s former bodyguard, Mohamed. Mediouri, the current king’s stepfather.
“But the most surprising thing, if you look closely at this list, is that the sovereign himself is one of those whose numbers were selected as potential Pegasus targets,” the report said.
Radio France said it and its partners in the media consortium Forbidden Stories had determined “that one of the phone numbers on the Moroccan intelligence list is indeed Mohammed VI.”
It added that “his entire entourage suffered the same fate,” including the king’s chamberlain, Sidi Mohammed Alaoui, his personal secretary and three members of his family.
It said the list also included the number of the head of Morocco’s royal gendarmerie and the king’s former top bodyguard, Hassan Charrat.
It was not possible to verify the claims immediately.
Pegasus is a highly invasive tool that can turn on a target’s phone camera and microphone, as well as access data on the device, effectively turning a phone into a pocket spy. In some cases, it can be installed without tricking a user into starting a download.
NSO has denied selling the software to authoritarian governments for the purpose of spying on dissenters, calling the allegations “false”.
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